Posted by Gizmo on November 7, 2011 :

Decks - dead or due for a reboot?

Turntables, from a DJ perspective are slipping into obscurity. Sales have plummeted to a fraction of what they once were, which has in turn seen the completely unassailable leader of the pack Technics shutter up the factory. But there is a call to arms to keep turntables alive, but given that most of you own the supremely high quality unbreakable Technics, just how do you intend to do this?

It is a readily acknowledged fact that manufacturers, regardless of industry can, but don’t make things that last forever. Why? Because you’d never need to buy anything else from them ever again. And this is very true of Technics decks. Finding stories along the lines of “20 year old 1200s still going strong” isn’t hard, which brings me to my point – if you own a pair of largely indestructible and readily fixable turntables, where is the market for growth? Are you all going to ditch your existing iconic turntables en masse just to stimulate growth for other manufacturers’ turntables? Of course you’re not.

And then you wonder why turntable sales are on their arse and the product is on life support.

It’s important to remember that costing considerably less that a good TV, a turntable is now a consumer unit. We shouldn’t expect it, or any other DJ gear, to last longer than 5 years. Indeed, in a technology driven market, the lifespan of products is down to 2-3 years these days. So forgive me if I don’t put a 30 year lifespan at the very top of my technology shopping list. I expect to change my computer, camera, TV etc on a 3 year cycle. Why shouldn’t you expect the same of turntables that get a daily and weekly battering?

It’s a strange thought – Technics made a product that by accident defined an industry (the 1200 was never a DJ deck), and because of the stellar quality, essentially doomed it from the start. They built it so well, that it was a kind of commercial suicide product – others got a look in for a short time, but Technics always prevailed. Quality, rather than features it seems, has been the primary selling point. That and the iconic branding that can sell anything, no matter how poor it might be.

So I’m left with this nagging feeling that unless manufacturers take the closure of Technics as a ground zero moment and essentially toss away and burn the blueprint, there is no market left for new decks, simply because there are so many immortal Technics out there that people still crave. Perhaps it’s time for the likes of Stanton, Numark and Vestax to revisit the established decades old workflow, and update it to deal with all the modern digitalness that we have at our disposal.

More importantly, you turntable lovers need to make your voice heard. If you still want needles, tonearms and motorised platters, you have to let the powers that be know. Perhaps you want say a Numark V12 – a V7 with the TTX tonearm that plays vinyl and links to software. Maybe you’d just be happy with a deck with built in Novation Dicers.

Ultimately though, unless you’re going to buy new decks, you can’t keep turntables alive – fact. It’s an empty call to arms, backed up with anecdotal evidence of the rise in vinyl sales (I still say that 100% increase in nothing is nothing). Manufacturers are unlikely to try to stimulate interest in new decks when it’s much easier, cheaper and more profitable to flood the market with controllers on a 2-3 year cycle.

Mark my words – turntables won’t die, but will continue to slip off into the annals of DJ history. They’ll see off CDJs and many controllers too. But if you claim to care, and make all the right noises, what are you actually really going to do about it? And if even Technics couldn’t survive in the turntable market, what are the chances of anyone else doing so?

Is a new age for turntables dawning? Do we want spangly reimagined turntables stuffed full of USB, MIDI and HID, or will you continue to keep those old decks going yet still moan about the death of decks?

Discuss.